We are now witnessing a glut of economic and political pretensions. Throw into the mix a virulently vacuous use of the term “racist,” and we begin the emotional descent into a tribalism that can only lead to chaos.
“Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes not divine, but demonic.” — Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance (Ignatius Press, 2004), 116.
On secular religion
That the Woke Movement has become a secular religion is obvious to some and intuited by most. The Church of Woke, in its rapid ascendency, jettisoned reason to lighten the load on its chosen vessel of Sola Fide. In a blasphemous turn, God became the flotsam in Sola Fide’s wake. Wokeness, in its institutional guise of Black Lives Matter and long entrenched in our university system, is now militantly secular. Secularism, by definition, has no basis in spiritual or religious life. As such, it spurns metaphysics because the pursuit of “such nonsense” inevitably leads to contemplation of the divine.
To who or what might the congregation of the Church of Woke, then, devoid of both reason and revelation, profess their faith?
Some of the most influential adherents of Wokeness—academics, politicians, journalists, and entrenched bureaucrats—are extremely cynical. This is evinced by the sheer amount of cognitive dissonance necessary to maintain the Orwellian Newspeak now common in the 24/7 Woke news cycle where all is politicized. A politic that has severed ties from both reason and revelation can have faith in only one thing: earthly power. If the movement can seize the lion’s share of this power (by whatever means available), they will be in a position to redeem what has hitherto proved irredeemable: human society. They intend to create a utopia worthy of Hobbes’ Leviathan. Move over Marx, Stalin, Hitler, Chairman Mao, and Pol Pot—this time it’s really going to work!
In order to achieve this ever-elusive utopia, the proponents of Wokeness must not only ignore the transcendent inherent in our founding documents, they must get rid of it. Though some, such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden (who both claim to be Catholic), pay lip service to the transcendent in order to expand their base and establish a moral advantage, in the next sentence they might advocate abortion or defy another primary tenet of natural law. When cognitive dissonance such as this becomes the modus operandi of the Woke, it is grounded upon a deep-seated conviction that reduces the concept of “human” to a technical term. The human, stripped of essence, can then be manipulated by Woke social engineers playing the part of a Deus mortalis. These mortal gods rule with an iron fist from thrones of confusion housed in the Castle of Dissonance.
But what about the young people, those marching through the streets in inebriated Wokeness, some waving Black Lives Matter flags in righteous anger, others trembling with tears of genuine sorrow, and still others blind with rage and bent on the destruction of Western civilization? The passion of these young people is real; you can see it in their eyes. What’s more, you can hear it in their voices, if you care to listen. And listen we must if we hope to understand how they have come to so firmly believe in such glaring falsehoods. Misguided as they are, they deserve our understanding. Shutting them out runs the risk of widening the chasm to the point where voices no longer carry and we are incapable of communication. The impossibility of communication, where Logos is not only silent but extinct, would be Hell. We cannot allow Logos, upon which all communication depends, to be cancelled.
I am trying to listen. I have been reading essays for a graduate writing class this week. One of the papers was written by a student (I’ll call the writer Karl, a White, 40-something graduate student) who, like me, grew up in the Rocky Mountain West among poor, uneducated, colorful characters. In a fictional work, Karl’s essay might be likened to a Western rendition of a Carson McCullers story. But this was not a work of fiction. It was a confessional piece, a pouring over of past sins real and imagined, a crying out for a forgiveness that can never come.
It was an essay about Karl’s journey from being born a racist to becoming a vehement antiracist. I needed to be sure I understood what Karl was attempting to convey by the use of the term “antiracism.” In an internet search for purposes of clarification, I ran across several mentions of the 2019 book titled How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. I had never heard of Kendi before reading Karl’s paper. What I found was shocking. The premise of the New York Times bestseller is founded on an elementary logical fallacy that collapses Kendi’s argument from the get-go. Maybe this is why Karl’s essay, from a philosophical reading, made no sense.
The essay, overall, was well-written and engaging in that I never could quite figure out why Karl felt like such a miscreant for living an interesting life filled with beauty, violence, temptation, sin, joy, and sorrow. Isn’t that the stuff of human life? There were some unsavory characters in the tale who were either bigots or racists. Karl was guilty of using language that would horrify any school teacher cultivated in public university to be morally and intellectually above such filth. For the most part, however (and here I speak from personal experience), it was kid stuff. Karl had cataloged awkward moments where many youths veer off-track onto a siderail and must then ride a bullet train into the dark. In most instances, the kids return to the light at tunnel’s end and learn from their mistakes. But Karl never came out of the tunnel. I was waiting for the reveal as to why.
Maybe if I understood antiracism a bit better the essay would make sense. I resumed my search. The Guardian was clear in its take on How to Be an Antiracist:
Kendi’s argument is brilliantly simple. An idea, action or policy is either racist – that is, contributing to a history that regards and treats different races as inherently unequal – or it is antiracist, because it is trying to dismantle that history. There is nothing in between.
I have to agree that the argument is simple—as in simple-minded. Kendi wastes no time in revealing the premise of his argument as a textbook logical fallacy most first-year philosophy students would spot at a glance. The premise of the argument is based on a false dilemma, an either/or demand where other options exist. The Guardian reviewer goes on to paraphrase Kendi: “Everyone says they are not racist. Few actively self-identity as ‘antiracist.’” If someone asked me if I was a racist, I would answer, “I consider individuals according to their character.” Would such an answer garner the label of racist or antiracist? Neither? Nor?
The either/or fallacy is simple at its best, insidious at its worst. Karl, a graduate student with an undergraduate degree in philosophy (from state university far, far, away) fell for it. The question is, “How could this happen?”
Another bestseller currently adopted by corporate and government training circles, Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 best-selling White Fragility, provides further clues to Karl’s despair. Matt Taibbi, the well-known liberal writer, captures the book’s message:
White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category. […]
DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This intellectual equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.
The last sentence proved to be the catalyst for my epiphany regarding Karl’s essay: Karl found a calling for incurable guilt in a college course. The turning point in Karl’s essay, the reveal I had been searching for, was hiding in plain sight. As an undergraduate, Karl had enrolled in a class titled “The Philosophy of Race.” The professor of the class convinced Karl, in the course of a single semester, that Karl was evil because Karl was White. In embracing the burden without complaint, Karl was awarded a distinguished service sticker. In accepting the prize, Karl was able to claim the title of “The Greatest Victim of All.” By burrowing to the bottom, Karl was back on top.
In a culture that peddles victimhood as moral excellence, Karl has become the ultimate martyr, a victim of Western Civilization personified in none other than Karl. The unapproachable Other that Karl can never fully fathom (the God which forgives but we can never fully understand) is for Karl human beings of a color other than White. The multitude of minority victims tortured and spit out by the monster named Western Civilization, however, have to be held at arm’s length, for Karl desires no forgiveness. If Karl was to be forgiven for the sins of Western Civilization, Karl could no longer lay claim to the title of “The Greatest Victim of All.” Nice work, Professor! Cancel Logos one student at a time!
Master or Slave?
Nietzsche’s theory of master and slave morality posits that slaves resent their masters (no real insight here) and over the course of time these resentments gestate into hatred. The transformation comes when the hatred, like the small white circle in the black half of the standard yin yang symbol (Taiji), gains enough momentum to transfigure the slaves into masters; the white overcomes the black as the black overcomes the white in the other half of the circle in a perpetual cycle of master and slave transformation. Karl, made to believe that Karl was master, became slave to Karl’s guilt.
But there is more at play. Nietzsche’s scheme fails to take into account the empty circle placed in the center of the ancient Taiji symbol (it rarely is depicted in contemporary renditions, i.e. the Forgotten God of the Woke). The empty circle represents the Absolute. This is the metaphysics that secularists necessarily ignore, the same metaphysics that lead to the contemplation of God. To recognize or even intuit the Absolute would jeopardize human absoluteness (never mind the oxymoron).
The Absolute, for the secularist, must be brought down to earth and broken. The immortal Other then becomes a mortal human slave to the human master who broke them. These are the masters who have created morality, and the world, as they saw fit (so the story goes), the Masters of Western Civilization. The Woke, buying into the Nietzschean scheme, realize the slaves must eventually overthrow the masters. In an attempt to manipulate the process, to control the outcome and position themselves as masters-to-be, the Church of Woke molds its members into ultimate victims. In a mad dash for the pit of despair, they fail to realize that the Nietzschean project is nothing more than a hatred of the Absolute which is God, nihilism disguised as creative force. They fail to understand that the scheme is untenable and doomed to fail.
Incubators of hate
That many of the courses offered in our universities have become incubators of hate is obvious to insiders and is becoming clear to Western society at large. This brand of hatred is nothing new. It played itself out in the real-world in more than one grisly theatre in the twentieth-century. Civilization has always been a violent affair and, in a fallen world, dreams of utopia, of heaven on earth, transmogrify into nightmares of reality. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who survived the nightmare of the real, drawing on one of the greatest Christian writers ever to live, put it best:
It was Dostoevsky, once again, who drew from the French Revolution and its seeming hatred of the Church the lesson that “revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.” That is absolutely true.
ThatKarl has been brainwashed by his Woke professors is clear. Woke professors are now minion. Logos in the full sense of the term has been sidelined in the unhallowed halls of the academy. It is being erased outside the academy as well. One example of this is the growing number of required corporate and government trainings based on White Fragility. These trainings can be likened to soft versions of Chinese re-education camps where an attempt is made to reprogram through social engineering that which cannot be reprogrammed: the human longing for the Absolute.
Solzhenitsyn went on to say:
But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions.
We are now witnessing a glut of economic and political pretensions. Throw into the mix a virulently vacuous use of the term “racist,” and we begin the emotional descent into a tribalism that can only lead to chaos. Chaos, when the smoke clears and the blood has been washed off the streets, has been historically replaced by totalitarian regimes. And so it begins…again.
Time to get real … again
What can be done to stave of this blasphemous madness? It is high time to get real. Real in the tradition of Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. This brand of Realism provides a stable foundation on which all humans can thrive. We must employ the wisdom of the past to recognize our sins, both mortal and venial, in an attempt to tune-in to contemporary rhythms of Logos. We must eliminate sophistry from education and return to the pursuit of the same Truth for which both Socrates and Jesus sacrificed themselves.
The basic premise that Reality exists independent of human perception might be a good place to start. But it might be a hard sell. Admitting that each individual exists inside reality and that reality is not conjured inside each individual mind would require abdicating our status as reality-gods. This might lead to the question of what, then, created reality, if not humans? Nothing? God? This is the question students must consider in depth if they seek to be educated rather than indoctrinated. It is the question on which each individual human life turns. The current system has swept the question under the rug in an attempt to create a world that has forgotten God. We are just beginning to reap the whirlwind of such a world…once more and again. Beware the Master of Victims.
About Jack Gist 2 ArticlesJack Gist is a humanities professor who has published in such journals as Crisis, The Imaginative Conservative, New Oxford Review, Academic Questions, and St. Austin Review.